Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains, an album review

Emily Cheyne, Spinnaker Radio DJ

Jar of Flies is the third studio EP by Alice in Chains released in 1994. They played a major role in the success of Seattle’s grunge scene in the early 1990s, along with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. Layne Staley’s chilling lyrics mixed with Jerry Cantrell’s gloomy guitar riffs give this album a mysterious feel. 

Track-by-track Review: 

Rotten Apple: The first minute of this song includes an eerie bass riff that sets the tone for the song. The lead singer, Layne Staley, has a very distinct voice that makes almost any Alice in Chains song immediately noticeable. This song is one of my favorites on the album because it is so beautiful yet painful at the same time. 

Nutshell: This song is one of the more well-known songs on the album due to its rawness. The mix of acoustic guitar and bass feels like a heartbreak, in the best way possible. The second half of the song includes a beautiful guitar riff that ties the song together. The lyrics, “We chase misprinted lies…We face the path of time,” perfectly describe this album in a ‘nutshell’. 

I Stay Away: The song stands apart from the others, starting out with a lighter guitar riff rather than something darker. The song then switches to include a vicious guitar riff and a harmony of vocals. Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell’s voices blend flawlessly in this song. The most impactful part of the song is when a series of string instruments can be heard, which gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. 

No Excuses: This song takes a more upbeat approach to its daunting lyrics. The mix of acoustic and electric guitar gives the song a playful sound, which contradicts its lyrics. The song’s lyrics focus on Layne Staley’s battle with heroin addiction. 

Whale & Wasp: This song is all instrumental. The opening guitar riff is unsettling, and it sounds as though the guitar is wailing. Towards the middle of the song, the guitar starts to lighten up almost like a breath is being taken. The song finishes with the same unsettling riff as before. 

Don’t Follow: Most of the song is sung by lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell until Layne Staley takes over in the bridge. This song has a soft, folk feeling to it as it includes a harmonica. The lyrics, “See my face, it’s growing old…Scared to death no reason why…Do whatever to get me by,” speaks to the toll that addiction has on people’s minds and bodies. Staley’s voice in the song is so powerful and calming at the same time. 

Swing On This: The final track on the album, although still good, is probably the least memorable one on the album. The verses have a more upbeat and funky feeling while the chorus feels a little darker. This song fits in well with the other songs of the album, each seeming like they could be connected. 

Overall, this album is much different from previous work by Alice in Chains, but it is no less and continues to be one of their most popular albums. Rotten Apple and Nutshell have to be my favorites on this album and two of my favorite songs of all time. Alice in Chains has such a distinct sound that has influenced many bands after it. Personally, I believe they are the best band to come from the grunge scene. 


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].